The winds are howling, the waves are crashing, and a correspondent from The Weather Channel is hunkered under a bridge reporting live on a hurricane’s landfall.
Maybe you wonder about the camera operator braving the same elements, or whoever is driving the satellite truck, or the anchors and crew at the network’s Atlanta headquarters. But it’s doubtful a lawyer comes to mind.
Yet at that moment, Lauren Linder, the network’s acting general counsel, or her colleague, Ron Barabas, are on duty. They monitor the safety of the teams on the scene and handle licenses for cellphone videos coming into the network—and their content going to other outlets—among other things.
Sometimes she is in the control room “just for moral support,” says Linder, who sounds happy to get doughnuts to fuel the staff.
Linder says the journalists are experienced enough to know how to present the news without risking their crews’ well-being. “I don’t have to be ‘The No Person,’” she says, but she does ask questions.
Producers in the field also carry a supply of forms to handle releases and licenses, but a lawyer needs to be available to advise on any negotiations—some storm chasers rely on fees—or fair-use issues on video that may come to them.
Linder’s formal title at The Weather Channel is vice president, associate general counsel, but she has been the de facto GC since last August, when her boss, George Callard, was promoted to president of the network. (Callard in January became chief legal officer of Nielsen.)
Linder, 36, grew up in Atlanta, graduating from Pace Academy before heading to Brown University for her undergraduate degree and Duke University for her J.D. She was an associate at Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton, working on intellectual property matters, for four years before spending a little over three years as an in-house lawyer at Turner Broadcasting System, where she negotiated and drafted development, production and program acquisition agreements, including talent and access contracts.
Linder said a layoff scare led her to apply for an opening at The Weather Channel, and even though she didn’t lose her job at Turner, she was bowled over by Callard’s offer to work in-house there. She started in 2015.
“I had an incredible amount of autonomy,” says Linder, whose legal department consists of her, Barabas and a paralegal.
With such a lean department, she relies on outside counsel. She says the network uses Elarbee Thompson for labor and employment work. It used Kilpatrick for years for intellectual property, but when the network was purchased last year, the new owner, Allen Media, moved IP work to Loeb & Loeb in Los Angeles. She uses Cooley for general advice.
Linder says that her outside counsel need to “understand TV”—and not just how the company makes money. She says understanding the culture of journalists, scientists and business executives is key.
A recognition of the company’s lean infrastructure helps too, says Linder, crediting Elarbee with assigning one of its paralegals to work with the company’s paralegal on a particularly challenging discovery project.
The Weather Channel television network and its online app are owned separately, which Linder acknowledges is unique in today’s media environment.
Fortunately, she says the staff gets along well with their counterparts at IBM, which owns The Weather Channel app.
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